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Feds secure 8 million more Pfizer doses, as Moderna cuts coming shipments

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OTTAWA —
The federal government has secured an additional eight million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine coming over the next few months, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday, just as Moderna revealed coming shipments will be smaller than promised. 

These coming Pfizer shots will be on top of the existing doses Canada has already purchased, and will see four million additional doses arrive in May, two million additional shots in June as well as moving up 400,000 doses from the third quarter into that month, followed by an additional two million more doses being added to the July deliveries.

Prior to this update, Canada was scheduled to receive more than one million doses a week through to the end of May, and starting in June Pfizer had committed to sending closer to two million doses. With the new contract, Canada is now on track to have a total of 24 million doses of the two-shot vaccine between April and June.

After shortages in the winter due to an expansion at Pfizer’s European manufacturing facility, Canada has consistently been receiving the promised shipments from the pharmaceutical giant, something Trudeau thanked them for on Friday.

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“More doses arriving sooner means more people getting their vaccines faster,” Trudeau said Friday.

This increase though, follows on the heels of Procurement Minister Anita Anand confirming that late on Thursday that Moderna informed Canada that the next expected vaccine shipment scheduled for the end of April will be 650,000 doses instead of the more than 1.2 million expected.

Further, Moderna is now saying that up to two million of the total 12.3 million doses promised to come to Canada this quarter “may” be delayed until the third quarter due to a “slower than anticipated ramp up of their production capacity” that is affecting a number of countries.

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The government had already signalled that while the delivery was supposed to arrive the week of April 19-25, it could be later, meaning it may be early May before the deliveries make it out to the provinces and territories.

“This news is obviously very disappointing. Our government will however continue to bring vaccines into the country in the face of volatile supply chains,” Anand said Friday.

While Moderna met its first quarter dose commitments and moved its shipment intervals up from every three weeks, a “quality assurance processes backlog” has meant the latest shipments to Canada have been inconsistent. The last Moderna shipment to arrive on time and in full was on March 11.

“We will continue to press Moderna, and all of our other suppliers to do everything possible to respect their delivery targets, and to provide more consistent delivery schedules,” said Anand.

The opposition party health and procurement critics expressed frustration Friday with the Moderna delays, and hesitancy over celebrating the additional Pfizer shots until they land.

“Although we are glad to hear about this news, we will hold off celebrations until doses are received. This government has a long track record of misleading Canadians and not delivering on promises,” said Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus.

The Conservatives have tabled a motion to summon Moderna Canada representative Patricia Gauthier to testify at the House of Commons Health Committee to explain the delayed shipments.

CTVNews.ca asked Moderna for comment on the coming shortages, but has yet to hear back.

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“Canadians should never have been put in this position. It’s a failure of federal leadership… People are incredibly frustrated as the third wave rages in parts of the country and I understand why,” said NDP MP Don Davies in a statement.

J&J, ASTRAZENECA UPDATE

Canada’s ramp-up phase of the national mass vaccination effort has been plagued by Moderna delays for weeks, while uncertainty is lingering over deliveries of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses.

These inconsistencies in deliveries have frustrated premiers and Canada’s logistics lead Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin has pledged to work closely on risk managing the situation.

On Friday, Anand announced that Canada will receive an initial shipment of 300,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during the week of April 27, to be delivered to the provinces in early May.

She said “more substantial deliveries” will be coming later in the second quarter, and into the summer.

As for AstraZeneca, Canada is set to see a total of 4.1 million vaccines arrive by the end of June with the bulk of deliveries set to come sometime between July and September.

So far, deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine have only started to trickle in from smaller deals Canada made to get doses from COVAX, India, and the United States, rather than from the main contract with AstraZeneca-Oxford.

“I spoke with AstraZeneca executives this morning, and am pressing for more AstraZeneca doses to Canada in the coming weeks and months ahead,” Anand said.

According to new documents tabled in Parliament late Friday, As of September 2020 Canada was anticipating paying $8.18 per dose of AstraZeneca from the Oxford deal, with deliveries starting at the end of this quarter and extending into the July to September period.The government has not released vaccine contracts or confirmed specifically how much Canada is paying for each shot.

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In total, following Friday’s updates, Canada is set to receive between 48 and 50 million doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines from the four pharmaceutical companies by the end of June.

REWORKING ALLOCATIONS?

The pressure to vaccinate more Canadians is being magnified by the exploding third wave of infections in several major provinces, seeing the Canadian Medical Association call for “extraordinary” new measures, including marshalling national resources.

The CMA is calling on the federal government to “consider re-prioritization of its vaccine distribution strategy” to focus on areas in urgent need rather than the “per-capita approach” currently implemented.

Asked whether this is something the federal government is considering taking steps towards, Trudeau didn’t directly answer, saying generally that he’s open to adjusting the rollout as the provinces see fit.

Trudeau said Friday that Ontario has reached out for more vaccine support and the federal government is “standing by” to send the Canadian Red Cross to help boost the province’s mobile vaccination teams, and talks are ongoing about extra health care workers, as Premier Doug Ford turns to other provinces for help.

“Right now in this third wave there are hotspots in different parts of the country, particularly in Ontario, but there are also concerns and case loads rising right across the country,” he said.

With files from CTV News’ Christy Somos, Michel Boyer, and Annie Bergeron-Oliver.

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